There is certainly no shortage of racing titles on the Xbox 360 with the likes of Dirt 2, Need for Speed: Shift and Forza 3 and more to fill our need for speed and thrills. Superstars V8: The Next Challenge thinks it can compete with the console's pedigree racers by focusing on two things: touring car racing and realism. Thanks to its Touring car focus, Superstars is lacking a little when it comes to car or track choice, but each real-world car and track is faithfully recreated to give that authentic Touring car feel.
And that's where Superstars stands apart; each car is very well modeled and detailed but it's the handling and sound of these V8 beasts that fits perfectly. For those of you who watch Touring cars or just caught glimpses of them, then you know that these vehicles are big, chunky V8 mammoths and the game replicates that well. Each car handles with weight behind it and that huge V8 engine ensures a nice amount of slide as you hit the accelerator leading to some fun racing, as your AI track partners are more than willing to trade paint with you. Sadly this shows one of the game's biggest flaws as its damage model and feeling of impact are sadly lacking.
Body panels can all be bent out of shape but only by small amounts and windshields can crack but not smash. I can slam the car full force into a wall at 150 MPH and it comes away looking mildly dented and with a few minor handling and speed problems, but nothing more. Surely if I smash into a wall at that speed I'd be lucky to even salvage a tire. Impacts also are lacking; hitting another car feels like bouncing off of rubber and even at high speeds it's no trouble to keep the car on track giving the impression that your car is either invincible or powered by Superman. For a game that tries to be realistic it's an odd thing to be lacking, however it's certainly not game breaking.
Championship mode is the main option here and it follows the real thing as a race weekend comprises of free practice, qualifying and two races so it's all nicely authentic as you follow your race weekend. As you might expect you can set up your car to your heart's content and you can really feel these differences in the handling and performance. Putting on some soft compound tires is the most noticable difference with your car's handling improving vastly, and with the Tire Degradation option turned on you can really feel the tires wearing away as the session progresses. It's these little details that really add to the experience.
Sadly the championship mode gets dull quickly as it lacks any sort of progression to keep you motivated.
All the cars and tracks are unlocked from the start and the only thing to earn are decorations for your relaxation corner which is a small area in your pit that has a couch and your Trophies and other prizes. Of course you play a championship to win but it would still be nice to have some sort of progression as you just hit A to move from one weekend to the next. Apart from championship mode the game is lacking in any real modes. Your standard Quick Race and Time Trials make an appearance along with the Superstars Licenses, which are a series of tests; sadly these can be completed in around an hour or less.
It's certainly not the prettiest game on the block either; the car models all look solid and pretty but off track things start to look a little off as crown animation and detail is something from the original Xbox's days and other track side objects lacking detail. It's by no means bad, just not great either, leaving you with that "It's okay graphics" feeling. The sound more than makes up for it though as each car has a beautiful roar to it and gear changes have a nice solid clunk.
Superstars V8: The Next Challenge is a very fun, competent racing game and great for Touring car fans and realism lovers alike, but its lack of options and progression system hampers it. However, for those willing to give it some time you'll find a good racer that replicates Touring cars well. Sadly it doesn't manage to enter the upper levels of racing greatness but I look forward to the sequel should it get one.
Superstars V8: The Next Challenge is rated 3+ by the PEGI because the game contains Online play.. This game can also be found on: PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.